The House of The Dead
Have you ever thought what it would be like to star in a Hammer horror movie? If the answer is yes, you can consider your life now officially complete. Sega have managed to wrap their Model-2-powered arcade game Virtua Cop, which has already seen a PC release, around a Resident Evil-style scenario.
The obligatory mansion house and chemical labs are intact, replete with diseased animated corpses and rabid undead dogs. House Of The Dead is an 'on-rails' shoot 'em up, which means you go where the camera takes you and shoot anything that comes at you. If you're unfamiliar with the style of play, preferring instead the freedom of something like Quake, then you'll probably hate the constricting nature. This game requires nothing but quick reactions; Quake at least requires instinct and cunning.
However, there are certain points in levels where your actions determine which 'rail' you will take. For example, the first bridge you come to on level one sees a zombie carrying one of the scientists towards the edge with the intention of throwing him over the side. If you manage to take out the zombie without killing the scientist, he is dropped to the floor and gives you one extra life, and you then proceed across the bridge and into the mansion. If you are too late, however, he is flung over the bridge. You then have to travel down a set of stairs only to see him disfigured on the brick floor, mumbling to himself.
Arcade Machine At Home
Like most arcade-to-home translations, House Of The Dead has the inherent problem of being a bit on the short side. Although the various routes do give some variety throughout the game, it's not one of those games that you'll either play for months on end or come back to time and time again. If you've spent enough time and money on previous versions, you'll probably complete the game in a couple of hours.
And if you were hoping to get in on some two-player, split-screen action, forget it. The unlucky keyboard-playing participant will not be happy.
If you have a Direct3D-compatible video card, House Of The Dead looks very close to its arcade counterpart. Walking into the huge mansion house, guns ablaze and tearing undead minions apart has never looked so good. Blast an axe-wielding zombie in the arm and not only will he drop the axe, but his whole arm will also drop with it!
Although the 3D models look and move well, the 2D sprites can sometimes look a bit odd. You'll remember in Doom when you looked at a dead body and moved 180 degrees around it, only to find it facing the same direction. Well that raises its ugly head in the form of trees and bushes in this game, giving the backdrops a 'cardboard'-like appearance.
The addition of a 'PC Mode' enables you to change characters you play as in the arcade game, and each has different attributes: for example, one character may give more damage per shot but have a smaller hit radius.
One thing you have to keep in mind is not to tinker about with the 'auto-reload' option. This, in effect, relaxes the need for you to reload your weapon once you've fired off a particular weapon's payload, thus making the game much easier to complete.
All in all, this is a top-class conversion of a top-class game. You won't get spectators in the background cheering you on, and the mouse is no substitute for a fake plastic gun. But if you liked the Virtua Cop series you should lap this up. House of the Dead is a fine addition to a genre that's most at home in windswept beachfront arcades.